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TITLE
What are the similarities/differences between the emigrant experience today/early 19th century? - Jim Hunter
EXTERNAL ID
AB_SGI_03_JIM_HUNTER_Q_05
PLACENAME
Inverness
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona
DATE OF RECORDING
2009
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Jim Hunter
SOURCE
Am Baile
ASSET ID
41023
KEYWORDS
conferences
emigration
lecturers
audio
audios
emigrantexperience

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As part of Homecoming Scotland 2009, a three-day international conference - Scotland's Global Impact - was held at Eden Court theatre, Inverness from 22-24 October. Prominent academics, historians and other experts came together to provoke healthy discussion on the history of migration and the influence of Scots abroad.

Am Baile interviewed several of the speakers during the conference. In this audio extract, Professor Jim Hunter answers the question:

'Could you list some of the similarities and differences between the emigrant experience today and, say, the early nineteenth century?'

'I suppose one very basic difference is just how final emigration was at that time. You know, if you left Skye for North Carolina in 1802, or any other time in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, you knew that there was no way you were ever going to come back. Well, some people did come back but that was very, very exceptional. And, so that was, that was very different in the sense that today, where we have people moving into the Highlands from say, Eastern Europe, Poland and so on, with cheap air flights and all the rest, they can, in a sense, go home for the weekend, whereas you were really embarking on an absolute change in your life that was never going to be undone. So that would be one, that would be one difference, I suppose.

One, one similarity is that oftentimes, just as today, emigrants were often not popular. There is a kind of happy mythology we have that everybody loves the Scots and, and that, you know, we were nice people and always made very welcome wherever we went, which is absolutely not the case. And particularly a lot of the people who left the Highlands a little bit later than somebody like Effie MacLeod, say the people who left after the potato famine in the 1850s, who went to Australia on sort of assisted passages, and they'd been starving, literally, in the Highlands for several years in some cases; they were in awfully poor health and poor conditions and often very little even in the way of clothes, and what the Australian emigration officials write about some of these people in Melbourne is exactly the sort of thing that the worst type of anti-immigrant prejudice expresses today. The Highlanders are described as savage, and lazy, and idle, and dirty, and good for nothing, and they're not going to possibly hold down a job, and they're just a drain on the public purse, and all of that and, and that the final sort of nail in the coffin for them was that most of them couldn't speak English, as was pointed out.

And so, so, you know, when you, when you read today and, or hear in the media and elsewhere, the kind of diatribes that some people engage in against emigrants into Britain today - that they are also hopeless, and sponging off the state, and idle, and all the rest - it's exactly the same. And so, I've often thought, I mean, this is kind of asking for the moon, I guess, but I think people in the Highlands in particular, should have some more fellow feeling for these folk than perhaps they do. You know, in the Highlands, as everywhere else, people tend to castigate so-called asylum seekers, and economic migrants, and all the other bits of contemporary jargon, but our people were once in exactly the same position.'


BIOGRAPHY

Professor James Hunter CBE FRSE is director of the Dornoch-based UHI Centre for History, UHI being the prospective University of the Highlands and Islands. The author of eleven books on Highlands and Islands themes, he has also been active in the public life of the region. In the mid-1980s he became the first director of the Scottish Crofters Union, now the Scottish Crofting Foundation. More recently he was chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the north of Scotland's development agency. In the course of a varied career, Jim has also been a journalist and broadcaster. He is presently a board member of Scottish Natural Heritage and chairs SNH's Scientific Advisory Committee.

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What are the similarities/differences between the emigrant experience today/early 19th century? - Jim Hunter

INVERNESS: Inverness and Bona

2000s

conferences; emigration; lecturers; audio; audios; emigrantexperience;

Am Baile

Scotland's Global Impact

As part of Homecoming Scotland 2009, a three-day international conference - Scotland's Global Impact - was held at Eden Court theatre, Inverness from 22-24 October. Prominent academics, historians and other experts came together to provoke healthy discussion on the history of migration and the influence of Scots abroad. <br /> <br /> Am Baile interviewed several of the speakers during the conference. In this audio extract, Professor Jim Hunter answers the question:<br /> <br /> 'Could you list some of the similarities and differences between the emigrant experience today and, say, the early nineteenth century?' <br /> <br /> 'I suppose one very basic difference is just how final emigration was at that time. You know, if you left Skye for North Carolina in 1802, or any other time in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, you knew that there was no way you were ever going to come back. Well, some people did come back but that was very, very exceptional. And, so that was, that was very different in the sense that today, where we have people moving into the Highlands from say, Eastern Europe, Poland and so on, with cheap air flights and all the rest, they can, in a sense, go home for the weekend, whereas you were really embarking on an absolute change in your life that was never going to be undone. So that would be one, that would be one difference, I suppose.<br /> <br /> One, one similarity is that oftentimes, just as today, emigrants were often not popular. There is a kind of happy mythology we have that everybody loves the Scots and, and that, you know, we were nice people and always made very welcome wherever we went, which is absolutely not the case. And particularly a lot of the people who left the Highlands a little bit later than somebody like Effie MacLeod, say the people who left after the potato famine in the 1850s, who went to Australia on sort of assisted passages, and they'd been starving, literally, in the Highlands for several years in some cases; they were in awfully poor health and poor conditions and often very little even in the way of clothes, and what the Australian emigration officials write about some of these people in Melbourne is exactly the sort of thing that the worst type of anti-immigrant prejudice expresses today. The Highlanders are described as savage, and lazy, and idle, and dirty, and good for nothing, and they're not going to possibly hold down a job, and they're just a drain on the public purse, and all of that and, and that the final sort of nail in the coffin for them was that most of them couldn't speak English, as was pointed out. <br /> <br /> And so, so, you know, when you, when you read today and, or hear in the media and elsewhere, the kind of diatribes that some people engage in against emigrants into Britain today - that they are also hopeless, and sponging off the state, and idle, and all the rest - it's exactly the same. And so, I've often thought, I mean, this is kind of asking for the moon, I guess, but I think people in the Highlands in particular, should have some more fellow feeling for these folk than perhaps they do. You know, in the Highlands, as everywhere else, people tend to castigate so-called asylum seekers, and economic migrants, and all the other bits of contemporary jargon, but our people were once in exactly the same position.'<br /> <br /> <br /> BIOGRAPHY<br /> <br /> Professor James Hunter CBE FRSE is director of the Dornoch-based UHI Centre for History, UHI being the prospective University of the Highlands and Islands. The author of eleven books on Highlands and Islands themes, he has also been active in the public life of the region. In the mid-1980s he became the first director of the Scottish Crofters Union, now the Scottish Crofting Foundation. More recently he was chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the north of Scotland's development agency. In the course of a varied career, Jim has also been a journalist and broadcaster. He is presently a board member of Scottish Natural Heritage and chairs SNH's Scientific Advisory Committee.